Going further off piste, with detours to Leicester and Durham

Oh no!  Firefox just crashed on me and lost the last ten minutes typing.  Ouch.  OK.  Starting all over again.

I didn’t manage to blog at all yesterday.  I went up to Leicester to facilitate a focus group with people who had kindly agreed to take half an hour out of their therapy, and give us half an hour of their own time, to talk with us about experiences of discussions with mental health professionals, doctors mainly, about psychotropic medication.  The focus group was excellent and really brought back very good memories of working in the therapeutic community in Nottingham, and of many psychotherapy groups.  I guess there was an interesting message to me about still being able to be in groups in that sort of non-therapist way.  I’ll be pondering on that one.

Anyway, the train journey up had no train company wifi/internet and the journey back I opted not to pay for it so I had very unreliable internet via my mobile ‘phone both ways.  In the light of that I decided not to post a blog but I knew there was an element of avoiding something.  I could have done a post, as I think this one will be, with no images, pretty easily really, and just uploaded in one go when I had a connection.

So what was I avoiding?  I think I knew then there were two things.  One is a funny sort of dislocation, the other an unease about my declared audience and aim here.  They’re separable but the twine around each other a bit.

Let’s start with the dislocation.  There’s a dislocation from the ride, the pilgrimage, the pelerinage.  A year ago today, as I’ve said, I was on a break from the ride, often in a car, and on holiday.  It was lovely (most of the time!) but it wasn’t the same.  In 2017 things feel a bit dislocated too. J has returned from over three weeks in India and we have hurled ourselves into a huge amount of sorting out, throwing out, of books and paper the like.  Our son, tnp, was off at a music festival when J returned, and he only returned last night.  Meanwhile, after a brief two weekend days with J back here, yesterday she shot off up and down to Exeter for part of her work portfolio, and I shot off up and down to Leicester for a piece of mine.  All the sorting out, as I’ve been saying here, has also involved a lot of disinterring, and mosty then throwing away, things from my past, from my shared past with J and then with J and daughter and tnp and racing up to the present day, and things from J’s past before we met and even more things from my past before we met.  It’s all felt a bit surgical and violent at times.  Did I need quite such surgery?  I remember as a medical student there was a rule about how deeply you could get a probe into a penetrating abdominal wound tilting things toward an “exploratory lapartomy”.  I think I feel I’ve penetrated the soft underbelly of my past in the last few days/weeks and found myself involved in full open abdomen surgery.  Yuck, what an image!!  It’s not really that bad (and a needed exploratory laparotomy could be life saving of course). Much adipose mess needed to go and has gone but perhaps it’s all impinged a bit on the four of us reconnecting.  In fact, we haven’t all four been in the same place for more than a minute so far and we won’t be again until Tuesday next week (if then!) Such are not atypical modern lives of four people of our ages I suspect.  What’s this regressive longing for more tranquillity, more time, more rhythm?!

OK, that’s the dislocation.  What about the other thing?  Well that’s a funny one.  I know the pilgrimage last year had roots (oops, just typed “routes”: is that a keyboard pun?  A word processing Daddy joke?)  Down manic thoughts and fingers, behave!

The pilgrimage had its roots in that occasion, noted in this blog at some point in the past I know, when “Tante” Lucienne called my plan to hitch off to Chartres a “pelerinage” and I had a little epiphany, an slow identification of the French word and its English meaning (can an English agnostic/protestant translation of a Catholic word for pilgrimage ever capture its native resonances?)  I knew she hit something absolutely on the nail about me.  As I thought about it, I also knew there was something of a tension between how extraordinary it is for a (now) 21st Century agnostic to do a pilgrimage and how wondefully out of my ordinary it was (as the plan came to fruition at last one year ago) to think of cycling 1,500km.  However, the other side of the idea is that it has been in some way so ordinary.  The route has much that is pre-Christian simply because you’re often following readily navigable routes from A to B and it’s been a Christian, and more recently a pluripotential, multi-spiritual, or frankly personal, pilgrimage for over a thousand years.  So many people have done this, 99% of them are “everyperson”: no longer known, identifiable individuals.  I would just be joining that sort of sociological, anthropological human snail slime trail across Europe.

I know that the reason I have rekindled my blogging is to help myself return to some meditative, reflective, possibility that was created by that and that is hard to hold in the pressures we create for ourselves in our usual 21st Century lives (I’m using that “ourselves” in something only just bigger than a singular “my” but it is a bit bigger, it does include some of my overlap with the three others of our nuclear family, our wider family, friends, colleagues and the “no man is an island” (I can’t make that “person”.  There’s a sense of disrespect to Donne winning over the wish not to be sexist!)

In that sense the realisation, the commitment to myself, that this is a meditative, blog for myself, is right, and yet then I struggle with is it worth it?  What does that mean?  If so why is it public? Etc. I know I was dissatisfied with a feeling that recent posts had been sort of collapsing in, getting self-centred, selfish, mundane.  So what? Oh dear, I never was any good either at keeping a diary or at meditating.  I will continue to ponder and aspire to meditate.

However, in the way of things, a bit like the gift of the work in Leicester, I got to look at comments here (because of course, I may write for myself but it’s wonderful when someone catches the blogging frisbee and throws it back with his/her own arc on it!)

I loved picking up Daddy jokes and skiing and pissed and piste the Gregory had thrown back, and then I followed the link (https://www.durhamcathedral.co.uk/worshipandmusic/sermon-archive/pullman-pilgrimage) that Helena thrown and I read this in that link:

“Pilgrimage, if it is real, must always be a journey into truth. It is not enough to overcome ordeals, have beautiful experiences, return home with travellers’ tales to tell. There must be some glimpse of truth: about ourselves, our world, our God. No-one who is aware of the threats we face in our century can go to Compostela without a sense of sorrow for the destructiveness of the past and present, and without realising afresh that the language of hegemony and conquest can have no place in today’s world.”

I’m agnostic so I really don’t have the tools for the “God” bit in there, but the rest is perfect.  Why blog yourself when someone else does it so perfectly and you can just cut and paste? (With the URL of course!)  Well, that’s just teasing myself really, because he’s right about the whole “into truth” bit, not a lot easier than “God” but more my terminology.  The journey does continue and will. “Onwards” as I seem to keep saying here.

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